December 30th, 1980, Serial No. 00371

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Monastic Spirituality Set 1 of 12


#ends-short; #item-set-075


Continue with Robert's treatment of poverty. Remember last time we talked about Benedictine conception of poverty, which differs from a lot of other traditions that we're going to run into. It's not nearly as extreme, not nearly as austere as a good number of religious views, that is, views of religious orders or founders or communities of poverty. And it takes a different tack. Let's quote once again Robert's summary of Benedictine poverty on the bottom of page 69. What matters for St. Benedict is not primarily the poverty of the monastery as a whole, what could be called sociological poverty, but rather ascetical and personal poverty directed toward the spiritual dependence on Christ as represented by the abbot, with a sense of responsibility for material goods and towards the two peace of the brethren. Quite different from the absolutist kind of thirst for poverty that we find in


a lot of, not only hermits, but other religious, conspicuously St. Francis. Okay, we get to the place where he's talking about our responsibilities. He breaks them down into three general ones, and I'll teach you each one in turn. Firstly, personal poverty and detachment is the one that we're inclined to put the most emphasis on. Secondly, common life and productive work, two of them put together. He sees common life and work in and for the community as being really one thing, the same way our constitutions tend to look at it. And thirdly, active participation in communal poverty, which means a kind of a concern for the poverty of the community itself, as a whole. Okay, first of all, personal poverty and detachment is always the foundation. And I refer you for this to our commandery's constitutions, Scheme 8, the first couple of numbers and


then also number 12 and 13. There's one and two numbers, 12 and 13, and maybe elsewhere also. It's a good idea to read the whole chapter in connection with this. Did you get any names for the constitutions yet? I haven't gotten them yet. Let's see, how many people are without? One, two, three, four. And maybe David. No, I don't know either. So, we've got to get them out of the way. So, who's the work leader in this group? David. David. He gave it to me and said he'd write it for me. Oh. Well, as soon as you're free, let me know and I'll give you this number. You can do it in the afternoon. At least you can run them along and they can be collated. The commandery's constitutions start out by talking about kind of interior poverty and then talk about the external expressions of this. The poverty to which the monk, by his vocation itself, commits himself, and the liberty of


the sons of God is that which, according to the teaching of scripture, consists in entrusting oneself completely to God, who alone saves us, and in seeking his kingdom in response to his word and imitation of Christ, who being rich became poor. It's a richly theological, scriptural foundation. And remember our model, number six, I think, of complete dependence upon God as the motive, as the essence of poverty. That one seems to be favoured. This interior poverty, chosen in practice by the monk with ever greater consciousness, becomes lived and expressed also in visible forms, so that his heart may be rendered more and more free before the demands of the kingdom of God. Its exercise involves renunciation of the possession of goods and of money, an agreement not to use them according to one's own will, but rather to accept as guide in their correct employment and fidelity to the evangelical spirit, the teachings of the rule, the norms originating from the life of the community, and the directives of the clergy, direction of the clergy. And then it goes on.


It remains quite general, leaving the specifics of poverty as they must be to be worked out within each community, because with regard to material things, conditions are so different in different places. You can't get quantitative with that. Okay, Roberts distinguishes the state before final profession and after final profession. And here he distinguishes use from ownership. See, during your time of simple profession, you may continue to own, but you cannot control, you cannot administer, you cannot use. Somebody else has to hold you, and after solemn profession, you don't have a right to own anything. After final profession, you are a member of the community, which is everything. But you yourself don't have a right to own anything. Now this is according to church law. It's not, civil law doesn't necessarily recognize, and they recognize that they abide by it, but they don't, they only recognize that they


abide by it because the individual has chosen. Civil law doesn't impose it. It's church law. And then he has an axe to grind here. That the primary commitment is this commitment to personal poverty. Those who criticize the apparent lack of community poverty, the size of the buildings, the extent of land holdings, etc., you can tell he's been stumped a little bit. For those who at least have a sense of personal poverty, they're anxious to have the best commodities and to work as little as possible for the first place. If they're monks, they hoard books and photos, cards, and he's thinking of somebody's concrete financial story, you can tell. They went down a lot. And souvenirs are no private property. You can hear, just hear the resentment. They ask for a special life, special wisdom. Without a strong spirit and profound love of personal poverty, all attempts at communal poverty


appear hypocrisy and can be very dangerous for the monk. There's something strange going on there. There's a projection, that is, of a person's unrealized call, maybe, to personal poverty unto the community. It's a typical thing of pushing everything outside, seeing the problem outside of yourself rather than in your own life, rather than sort of settling your own, setting your own house in order first and then being concerned about communal poverty. Now, I haven't seen this to be true, except in very, just a few examples. But in the Japanese monasteries, I'm sure they haven't been through this whole thing, when the monks would wake up to the fact that the monastery itself was rather low off, was rather rich, they had a lot of land, a lot of machinery, big gardens and so on. Even though the monks could be as poor as mice and so on. I remember reading, you know, Albert Morgan, his aspect on poverty.


He says that the monastery actually is to be rich, can be rich, but the individual monk is to be poor. You see, he was writing about the 1920s or so, and this new sense of poverty had not broken through yet, and this new social sense of the Church, which appears in Vatican II, had not broken through yet. You couldn't write that way, you know. And it's as if Roberts at some point has his back a little bit against the wall when he's defending the Vatican Monastery, the fact that it doesn't have to depend on the monks. Now, he's certainly right, you know, but there's a kind of defensiveness about that position. People become, you become shy to acknowledge it more than anything else, because we're so open and sensitive to influences from the Third World and so on. Quite the same. Because we should be uncomfortable. Because it's hard to settle the line exactly right. Certainly when you have some immense monasteries, which seem to need a lot of their property, like St. John's, you know, where they've got this big university and so on.


What are they going to do? As soon as you're committed to something like that, then another principle tends to take over, and you have to live at the level of the people you serve, and something like that. At least there's been no revolutionary breakthrough which hasn't happened in other years. So the first duty of the monk, in a matter of poverty, is to live it perfectly in his own life, and keep his mouth shut. That's what it is. At least he suggests he should keep his mouth shut for the first seven or eight years, and modestly he may speak his peace. He's a good... In our life an expression of personal poverty is frequently the acceptance of a communitarian poverty which is less austere than what we desire it to be. Well, that might seem like a kind of twist, but he says more about that in the volume 377. True humility in interior poverty will know how to live poorly in a monastery


which is less poor than the ideal monastic set. He's right, you know, that part of our interior poverty is being able to put up with what we think is mediocre. And yet, along with that, not to capitulate to it to the extent that we don't live a personal poverty. It's not so easy to live against the stream, you know. One of the keys to religious poverty is the difference between what is useful and what is superfluous. Now this didn't seem quite satisfactory to me, the setting up that distinction between useful and superfluous. It should be needful, it seems, and superfluous doesn't. Need, usefulness, and superfluity. You can define surplus either way, as what's not useful or what's not needful, but if you define it as what's not useful, then you have to make an immensely large circle for what you may have. In terms of the need for detachment.


And this fact that comfort is such a powerful factor in reducing poverty, and in, as he says, masking wealth. We should realize that comfort is the mask with which the wealth and riches of much of our society are disguised. I was a little puzzled by what he meant there. I think he means that comfort looks like need, and therefore an apparent need is hiding real superfluity, is hiding real wealth. Excess, in much of America. Because also we grow to need things that we don't really need. We expand our needs, and that's part of the whole American consumer thing, is the ever-expanding needs which are produced by advertising, so that more and more can be produced, and you get a kind of an entropy thing, which at the same time is having terrible effects at the other end of the scale, effects of impoverishing other countries,


and also depleting natural resources itself. We've heard a lot about that. It must have been challenging when you brought up the subject of debauchery. Yes, especially the church, because that was an expensive thing to undertake. Because it was very touchy. Yes. There's always going to be somebody who'll say, you don't need to do that, live with it the way it is, and think of the people who are starving like an angel or something. And it's very hard to answer an argument like that. It's very hard to say, this principle over here in this area outweighs this principle over here in this other area. There's no way of comparing things on two different scales. Like when we're talking about the need for, what do you call it, the right kind of liturgical setting, the requirements of the liturgy, whether it be just order, or the functioning of the liturgy, or whether it be a certain beauty, or whether you're talking about the demands of poverty, and solidarity with the poor needs of others,


or simply monastics and prisoners. How do you get those together? There's no theory that would do it. It reminds me, before I came here, my parish had a real hard decision to make about stained glass windows, just beautiful stained glass windows, and they needed really heavy-duty repairs, and they were just going to start cracking open. It's a really good question. Do you believe in stained glass windows? Because it's part of the tradition. Because of the saints. And it cost a lot of money. Things get a lot worse. We know how much the change in the atmosphere of the Church, the change in the interior of the Church means to us now, having done it. Almost everybody would agree with me now that it's justified. But before I was telling you, it was quite a hard decision to make. The other remodeling jobs were not so big a hassle, partly because they were smaller, and partly because they were more evidently necessary than most of them.


Not the community ones, of course, but the others. And each one of them was a small one, but the Church was a big one. Here's some quotes on this business of needs and so on. True affluence is not needing anything. Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries. That's Mark Twain. Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries. That's when America was getting very much into this thing. Multiplying needs. Here's Gandhi on the other side. The essence of civilization, and here he's not being sarcastic, but Mark Twain, consists not in the multiplication of wants, but in a deliberate and voluntary enunciation. So he's talking about a spiritual civilization. Mark Twain is being ironic about the American version of a materialistic civilization. Multiplication of unnecessary necessaries. Because we're constantly being persuaded, at least to the media,


that things are necessary to us that are not necessary. And there's something in us that's in complicity with that. There's something in us that continually wants to increase our needs. And it has to be. Which is very difficult. It happens in every area of life. If they're not physical needs and physical desires, they're never going to come to acquire more ideas, more experiences, a richer consciousness, all these kinds of things. There are all different levels of riches. He's got a whole chapter here, also, chapter 6, on desire and greed, necessity and need. The poetry is brilliant, actually. Human beings have the potential for developing an enormous variety of needs.


If the Ashanti of West Africa, for example, need golden stools, the natives of the South American jungle need korare, intoxicating drugs, dyed parrots, feather cloaks, shrunken heads, and food several feet long. And the Kwakato Indians needed totem poles, slat armor, engraved copper plates six feet square, and painted cedar boxes in the late of Mother of Pearl. One can realize, without even looking at Greece, Rome, Babylon, Egypt, and modern America, that human beings have the capacity to learn to want almost any conceivable material object. Given, then, the emergence of a modern industrial culture capable of producing almost anything, the time is ripe for the opening of the storehouse of infinite need. We know that the storehouse of infinite need is now being opened in America. It's the modern Pandora's box in which plagues are loosed from the world. Thirst for happiness, pain, eternal desires are without beginning.


Potential. Everything is desire. I don't know how he does it. He's the bold freak. He's a bit of an alchemist. Attracting. Contracting. Quality. It is an active power, and without it there would be nothing but tranquility. It contracts and fills itself with itself. Arias. What is the power of desire? What is the right way to live? He must have written this on his blackboard, but he didn't talk. By lessening our demand. Demand increases desires, and desire makes demand, which creates dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction makes pain. There's a wisdom about it. The first idea was to lessen the desire. I'll find it. What is the right way to live?


By lessening our demand. Demand increases desires, and desire makes demand, which creates dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction makes pain. What does he mean by demand there? Does he mean need? Does he mean claim? It's not claim, it's... Yeah, it's claim. Except when you put need in quotation marks and say that need can also be, you know, an imagined need. It's frequently used that way. Okay. The business about the useful, the necessary, the superfluous. And he tends to stand here by the useful, but then at one point he gets very...


pretty sharp about comfort. It's very hard to talk about these things in abstract terms, actually, because really what's at stake is the very concrete things, very concrete questions of comfort and discomfort, concrete articles, concrete annunciations. The abstractions don't get us anywhere. This is true in any country, this business about comfort and wealth. But it has a special importance when we're living in or related to countries of the third or fourth world. We talked about how these civilizations are often superior to our own, and are sensitive to the fact that Christianity and wealth have often gone hand in hand. That's a hard saying. Just like Donald Nichols says it, Christianity and violence have often gone hand in hand. You have to ask why. Why does it matter? It's almost as if the gift that God gives to man at a certain point becomes exchanged for material, gets translated into gold,


gets transmuted into something material, something palpable. This happens also in religious communities, I think, in some way. It's as if there's a kind of an exchange that man makes of the gift that God gives to him, of course. And it's as if also that the power that is given by God, the spiritual power that is given by God, in his gift to a certain tradition, to a certain nation, to a certain culture, becomes translated into material property, and becomes defended with military might. Because that kind of thing of knowledge is simply government. You find the same sort of thing in the old system already, don't you? That is, the Jews who were the custodians of the word of God, the custodians of the revelation of God, and somehow the presence of God in the temple, as it were, the secret of God, somehow they're turning it into yield for themselves. Now here I'm talking about Jesus' approaches to the scribes and the Pharisees,


and his chasing the money changers out of the temple and so on, which is a symbolic act in some way, symbolic of the whole tragedy that had happened in Israel. The spiritual gift of God tends to get translated into material terms, terms of wealth, terms of power, bringing about inequality and injustice and then violence. And it's a kind of, what would you call it, a kind of perverse or ironic incarnation, you see? Because it's a materialization instead of an incarnation. The spirit does not incarnate in a personal way but in an impersonal way, in things, including power over people, which turns people into things for the benefit of other people. That's the kind of thing that tends to happen, which is just awful. And we can find the same thing happening in each one of us, where when God gives us something which in some way is to be transmitted,


we want to grab it and possess it for ourselves and turn it into something we can enjoy, and something we can hold on to, and protect from others. So we think the same thing happens in each one of us, there's that same tendency. The basic tendency of the gift of God is somehow to be corrupted by the way that we receive it. And this thing is very deep and central in the mystery of salvation. And this is what the prophets are veiling against all the time, against the kings and against the priests and against the people, too. And it's just as true of us, of Christians, of Catholics, of the Church, as it was, of the Jews in the Old Testament. Only there's a greater potential there, you see. Because something really comes into the world when Christ comes, at the time of the Incarnation. I keep thinking it's as if there's a big quantum of knowledge, of consciousness and of energy given to the world, and it happens to be given to the West.


And so what happens? After 20 centuries it's turned into wealth and it's turned into military. It's turned into wealth and it's turned into power. And you look for that grain of the original spirit, of the original charism, of the spirit of Christ itself, and you'll find it's still there. It's not too easy to find. Well, in a way, he was a Christian in the sense that he was a prophet to Christianity of its own forfeited charism, you see. The prophet who comes to your door and shows you that you've traded over the gift that was given to you, the spiritual gift that was given to you, for material wealth and power. So this beggar comes up to the door, and by his way of life, his convictions, and by in some way the way that God responds to his way of life, on the national scene, he convicts you.


You look like Lazarus outside the door of the rich man. No, the rich man didn't convert. So this is something we all have to be awake to today. Effective poverty is never achieved by regulations and pressure tactics, it's a work of love. Only love of poverty, or rather love of the poor Christ, can give an objectively balanced judgment concerning what is strictly necessary for our life. Objectively balanced, I don't know if you can say that, but it's always going to be a kind of charismatic, spiritual judgment of the heart, which may not seem that rational on the outside. This love expresses itself in a tendency that most desires to become more poor. He's really getting into it there, because that's what it's about. This love of poverty is a very strange and paradoxical thing. Of course, the person that we think of is St. Francis, but we could think equally of the desert foes, because St. Francis was just like one of the desert foes. He just came into another context, and he settled on poverty


with a particular love and particular cherishing. And so did another of the desert foes. Ms. Vandenbroek has got a chapter in here on lady poverty, which is about this. It's about this kind of tendency towards poverty, which is rooted in the heart. And you don't know how to translate it, you don't know what to call it. Whether it's a desire, a hunger for freedom, a hunger for God, it's all of that. It's a hunger for the freedom, which is something like participation in God. It's a hunger for the spirit, which makes one impatient. The material things, it seems to draw us away from that. It's a hunger for interiority rather than exteriority. So the movement of poverty is a movement into the interior, a movement of the heart. Just a couple of quotes.


One not only chooses poverty, one loves it. Any attempt at poverty which is not voluntary, defeats the end, which is freedom, freedom from the slavery of matter. The love of poverty makes us kings, it seems like. Here's one from Lenin. This way of poverty is a way in which you attain all your desires. And now he starts to say something very obscure. Whatsoever thing you have longed for will certainly come to you on this way, whether it be the shattering of armies, victory over the enemy, capturing kingdoms, reducing people to subjection, excelling your contemporaries, elegance of speech, and all that is like to this. When you have chosen a way of poverty, all these things come to you. What does it mean? It must mean they come to you in some other form. As Jesus would say in the Kingdom of Heaven, a hundredfold it came up. No man has ever traveled on this way and had cause to complain, contrary to what it was. When, however, you have entered the world of poverty and practiced it,


God most high bestows upon you kingdoms and worlds that you never imagined. And you become quite ashamed of what you longed for and desired at first. Ah, you cry, with such a thing in existence, how could I seek after such many things? And then from the Gospel of Jesus, which in the Kingdom of Heaven, a hundredfold in the treasure of man. In the movie, this Persian poet seems to be talking about the same thing, musically. He who is willingly poor is freed, and without the cares of this world's goods, his voice broke, going straight to the heart of all that is ever been written about poverty. Freedom, it says, is the heart of poverty. In some way, it's a magnificent phrase. Poverty is the sacrament of liberation. That's a good statement. The sacrament of liberation. What does it mean? It means it's the sign of liberation, but it's also the thing that somehow accomplishes liberation. It's the means and it's the sign at the same time.


It's a paradoxical means, because means means wealth, right? Means is also a way, a method, but it also means wealth. Poverty is the inverse of that. It's out of nothing. The sacrament of liberation. So, that's what Bloom is saying, and the purpose to the Desert Brothers collection, is that the only way they had to show where they were living from, that unseen ground of God, was to be independent of the things of this world, was by their poverty, which is expressed in all kinds of ways, including their fasting and their salvation. In other words, their lack of needs on this earth, was the sign, in a sense, the sacrament of the freedom that they had of this world, because they were living from somewhere else. He talks about Saint Francis and Lady Poverty, and the way this notion of his sort of fed from the tradition of chivalry.


The idealized love of the Lady dovetailed monk, troubadour, and knight. Francis embodied all three of these great medieval types. And Lady Poverty seems to convert it, as a point of Lady Wisdom. Then there's the Sacrament Commercial, which is an early Franciscan work. I am not new, but ancient and full of days, she tells us herself in the Sacrament Commercial, that supernatural scenario of the holy marriage between Francis and Madonna Poverty. In paradise I was in man, and of his essence when he was naked still. Very joyful was I, entertaining him at all times. For possessing nothing, he belonged wholly to God. You catch the allusion to the Book of Wisdom, or Proverbs, where Wisdom says, I am delighted to be among the sons of men. I was playing before God at all times. It's got quite a bit of it.


Thank you. Thanks, John. Thank you. I don't want to be good on the subject of Thomas Jr. and the reintoxication. You're just living from what is given, living from nature, living from your own being, learning to somehow get into a depth where you are aware of what you already have, rather than having to seek something new. Okay, the second dimension here is common life and productive work. And I'll just quote a little chunk from the Gali's Constitutions about work,


which shows you the unity between these two things. Work is the normal means by which the community lives. Holy Father Benedict intends the monks to be engaged in daily labor in the most authentic tradition resting on his teaching. He doesn't say the only tradition, the whole tradition, because there are traditions that give much less importance to work. And one of them is the early canonicalist tradition, as a matter of fact. The early canonicalist or medical tradition did not place much importance on work. They made spoons and fishnets and who knows what. I say we've got some real classic canonicalist locations. Fishnets. The most authentic tradition resting on his teaching shows us work as the fundamental element of the monastic life in a wise and delicate equilibrium with a contemplative spiritual activity. So there. Well, it doesn't say. Fishnets or fruit cakes, it doesn't go into that.


Prayer is work. I'm talking about something else. That's in the chapter before. We're in chapter eight. The monks, accepting their share of work like all other Christians, they referred back into it. An idea that work is part of the human condition. Develop their human faculties and continue the work of their creator and contributing to the accomplishment of the final divine providence. Accepting with faith and charity the suffering that this work sometimes involves, they participate in the redemption to the mystery of the cross. The individual brethren should be engaged in the various occupations in such a way that the community may be able to support itself from the total effort. Even though there will always be some members who are sick or employed in other activities, they will not be able to perform profitable labor. The apostle's admonition always remains valid for everyone. If any man will not work, neither let him eat. Self-support is the goal


in how many communities reach self-support. We're not that close to it right now. We're not as close to it as we were at one point. Because our chief means of self-support, of course, is a good kid. And in 79, I was surprised to see that there was only about 20% of all people who owned more than 20% of their expenses. One time it was up to 40, perhaps almost 50%. Got to make more cakes. Or reduce our expenses. He says here that the common life becomes more difficult with the years. That is, the dimension of poverty in the common life becomes more difficult with the years.


The tendency to make a little corner for oneself, perhaps a private office, to appropriate things such as special books, clothes, or textbooks, becomes stronger with time. If we don't discipline ourselves from the beginning of admission in a positive and generous practice of detachment, from the comforts that our cenobitic life offers as well, the semi-hermetic life offers even more comforts, because we have a self-reliant, powerful strength. This is a little contrary to what we would prefer when he says that it gets more difficult. People tend to require more of a taste for acquiring as time goes on. It's been said that avarice is advice of the aging. Avarice is advice of old men who feel their own power is declining and therefore tend to put more confidence in things. So it's something you have to be prepared to fight, that kind of desire for security. That reminds me of something that Fr. V. Griffiths said about the separatists.


In the beginning they were very imprudent about this, and then suddenly... They had nothing. They had nothing. Then after a while all they cared about was places to sleep and food. Even though they had nothing, you can be concerned with it all the time. You can be so poor that you've always got material things on your mind. That's too poor. Because you're not free. It seems to me that the use of poverty is very much concerned with freedom. Or at least a good sign of the right poverty is freedom. Even if that's not the only reason for poverty. The reasons for it and the signs of it are two different things. But if it's binding us to freedom, then it's a good sign. Yes. That's right. Yes. Or you can...


Either you can be getting so much ego-satisfaction... There's a story in the Desert Fathers about the pastor who... He was a real pastor. And then he went out to this desert father and he was away from people. And he couldn't even wait until noon to have his meal or something like that. And he said, well, before when you were down in town, everybody knew you were fasting. You were getting fed through your ears. Because people were praising you. But when you were really put to it, you weren't able to do it. So the pastor said, eat something every day and you'd be hungry. That's really part of the message that I had before I was deceived. But it can be that a person in learning to fast can be very preoccupied with this thing. Until he gets used to it, that's one thing that's a necessary statement. But if it goes on, then the preoccupation... Ordinarily, it would seem... There's no working out. He talks about a good remedy.


Periodic examinations of conscience. For instance, each year during the annual retreat. We used to have an article in the Constitution that read like this. Every year in the month of May, the friar with the seller will visit the cells taking note of the needs of each one. On the month of May. Spring cleaning. That was a pleasure. So the provision may be made. Let the religious on this occasion ask the blessing of obedience for the things they have. Now what they would do over in Italy was to make a list of everything they had. Including their books and everything. The list was too long. It was a real nuisance to make it. It was a proof. And then you had the embarrassment of showing it to the superiors. Getting a signature. It was like they'd just sign it. And that was the indication of permission. We don't have any. It can be done. Do this, of course. Didn't you use to have a thing on your knees where the friar would go down to the cell and take a note of it?


Oh yes. And take away the guy. Take away his electric heater. Anthony talks about it. The thing he wanted most would be taken away. You try to find that. Pounce on the thing. Pull it out of his hands. The friar would bring a couple of strong ones with him. While they searched the cell. Right after Christmas. Not the month of May. Right after Christmas. Especially Ephraim's stuff. Get those chocolates from the liquid centers. Ah. Productive work is also a fundamental expression of poverty. He says it includes services such as those of secretary, guest master, superior, librarian. What doesn't it include? Productive. What does he mean by that? Productive work. There's a materialist bias in there somewhere. That you should be making something. But what's productive and what's non-productive?


Well, any work which is a service is productive. Or at least is a legitimate monastic work. What would be illegitimate and non-productive might be anything that is vain. Even a product which is vain. Or meaningless or irrelevant to monastic work. Or, you know, a frivolous. Or something which is merely for one's own fulfillment. A kind of hobby. Or... Or what? Listen. One of the important things when working in a community is to realize you're working for others and help carry the burden. You know, I'm not just putting in three and a half hours. That's right. But you're sharing, you know, knowledge. There should be a kind of sense of responsibility and a desire to do a good job. When you do a good job, it comes from a sense that you're carrying part of the burden.


And also that if you don't do it, somebody else is going to do it. There should also actually be a desire to fill out the measure list to help you fill out the measure list. Simply as a personal discipline. But also because I use the sheet. He says the principal element of monastic properties is the monk's work to sustain the community. That's kind of a Cistercian view of the thing. It might not... We might not agree. Other people might take quite a different view. The early Canonbales would have had a much different view because they didn't work very in such a way as to support the community. And the fundamental, the principal element of their property, of the early Canonbales, was the property itself, that it was the deprivation itself. The lack of resources. So that's a more hermetical thing than cenobitic. This is cenobitic, and specifically Cistercian in this case. Specifically Trappist, I think, the emphasis on hermetic. Yeah, very often they had benefactors.


For instance, well, St. Arnold's first hermitage, he was given a carpet, and probably also a sales report. And then people would venerate the monks often, and they'd make pin food and things like that. Their needs were very small, too. The laborers. Yeah, the laborers would work. That's the thing that got more organized, the institutional laborers, and that was another thing. So something could be produced by the people who were not actually really knowing what they were doing. And that could support the community. It was like the Carthusians. That's right. Okay, take the Carthusian example as the extreme example which goes against this view, okay? Because there, whatever work those monks do is almost entirely unconnected with supporting the community. The support is carried on, in another word, by the manufacturer of the carpet. By somebody else. At least under the supervision of the laborers. And mostly the presidential laborers.


But there there's an almost complete unconcern for this question of self-support. And for the hooking up of the monks' own work to the support of the community. Okay, the idea that Hebrew doesn't do better than Hebrew. Now sometimes you'll find the same thing in the Desert Brothers. In other words, when they said in the Calvary's Constitutions that the Desert Brothers and other monks, that the most authentic tradition of Benedictine monasticism says you should work, and work is an important element. But as I said, there are other traditions. Some of them put very little emphasis on work. Now it often depends on the time in which you live and what kind of witness is needed at that time. Because these things are a little relative. It's hard to lay down absolute rules. And yet you have to have, you have these principles that are sort of the balance of monastic life that snap back into balance and operation whenever a particular local situation is relieved. There's no number three. So then the basic balance of monastic life comes back and work comes right back into the picture.


It's strong. It's an important element. People like Evagrius, the Evagrian tradition, you see, just put very little emphasis on work. In fact, for Evagrius you have to find an excuse to work, practically speaking. It's all right to work, if you absolutely have to, to keep him going off your record, or to while away a difficult part of the day or something like that. That's it. Otherwise you're supposed to do it yourself entirely. Now there is a place for that kind of thing, and there's a special call for it. And that call typically would be in reclusions where much less work is required and one converts on entirely individual scope. A person might do an hour of work or something like that. At that point the connection between the quantity of work and the person's self-support is beginning to weaken very much. But the needs of that person are probably very small, so as far as proving anything. And the needs, in a way, should diminish very good. Diminishment of work.


Then they talk about the Cistercian reform, and that's the label here, but actually what he's talking about would refer to any monastic reform, practically speaking, and with different proportions from the various elements. For instance, the proportion between work and solitude would be much different for us. And since he doesn't talk about these things anywhere else, it's good for us to go quickly through this section, even though it refers to the Cistercian history. He lists the different elements, the different dimensions, and it's probably clothing, food, work, and on this he extends himself because, as we said, that's the key to Cistercian property, the most important element, monastic work. It ought to be productive, and you wish that he would supply a definition for that, but he doesn't.


Intellectual work is likely to be displayed very different from some Benedictine traditions, which were specialised in that. He said, as he said, not manuscripts. They used to write manuscripts, and that was considered a work. Yeah, he said that somewhere. I don't see that here. No, here it is. Copying a manuscript is considered to be manual labour, since it was for the use of others' work. Well, it is manual labour. It's not like building a wall. The primary goal was that the Cistercian monk not depend on the work of others for his support. Therefore, all those things that you can have out in a parish life, or out in another kind of church life to support the clergy, were disallowed. So the monk, according to St. Benedict, was really a monk when he was quite a little bit of his own age. The trouble with this kind of view is, of course, that certain people can begin to feel inferior, begin to feel guilty,


because they're not playing any part in the support of the community. So they're very careful not to be protected against. Certainly they're simply not able to, if they're sick. Other people are doing another kind of activity, another kind of work, which even though it's not productive, is equally necessary. There are reasons for manual work, which he doesn't elaborate on, which maybe are part of his motivation for putting so much stress on productive work. There are other reasons for manual work, besides the fact that it's productive. There are things that it does for the human person, for the human organism, the kind of balance that it gives. There's a kind of a wisdom hidden in manual work, which is helpful to the monk. We talked about the difference between the witness that somebody like the Trappists or anybody in the Eastern Monastery is going to give, and the witness that the little brothers of Jesus are going to give, or the missionaries of charity,


or any of those other groups. And here we get back to that difference in types of poverty, and difference, actually, in the scope of religious life, and the purpose of religious life, in the charism. A life which is supposed to be more a life of prayer, a life which would be less conspicuously, and perfectly a life of poverty. Quite differently from another one, which is really gifted and called to give it as a program. And this varies with the times. It seems like something like a more contemplative monastery, not one like he's talking about, and a smaller one would be a little... Yeah, for instance, at Christ in the Desert, you find something that approaches more to the poverty


of the missionaries of charity, or little brothers of Jesus. But there's another factor that enters in there. Almost every monastery, at least in the Benedictine tradition, is going to own its own land, is going to own its own buildings, whereas not so with some of those other groups. They may just rent an apartment or something like that, or borrow a building. And they may try to own no fixed property at all. So that already gives you a different character, gives your poverty a different character, when you have a land and a building. And you get into all kinds of economic structures at that point, having to pay taxes, and therefore having to have money to pay taxes. You rarely get worked in the machinery. And some of the desert monks were pretty free of that kind of thing. I guess the desert was growing, I don't know. There's something about their work, though, that to me it doesn't seem to fit anything. The building from the site was very poor, but then there must have been a really high class... Oh, you're talking about Christ in the desert?


Yeah. Maybe so, yeah. It's very hard to be consistent in those matters, real hard. It's very hard not to have some strikingly discontinuous element in your life. Like you'll have a monastery of fervent monks who live by making perfume, or liquor, you know, like the Carthusians. They make chartreuse, and so do we over in Italy. We make this rather high-priced cordial. There's a contradiction that's built right into that thing, and I don't know why I can't explain it. Because the monks are not supposed to live by eating grass, I'm sure. Why do things have to be so comic? Or even ourselves, you know, soaking our fruitcake in brandy, in order to make it more seductive. It's a counter-witness to the thing. Or maybe it's just supposed to be that way, so that we won't be able, really, to stand six inches off the ground


and be totally spiritual people. Maybe God always wants us to be brought back to earth in that way, by having something a little bit ridiculous in our system. Because you're actually making things that you thought you were not supposed to do. Yeah. I saw this interesting picture of the Trappists, you know. They were all in the... They had a real aesthetic, and all this... It was a French abbey, and they were all around, like, very quiet, calm, very austere. And they were wrapped in this candy. These things were candies. Sure, the nuns make candles, you know. The Trappists didn't make candles. That's a paradox. And whether it indicates that there should be some revolution, you know, to some reform, which would radically do away with this kind of contradiction, or whether we're simply supposed to live with that kind of contradiction, in order that we can't take ourselves too seriously, I don't know which is the right answer.


Because a monk... See, a monk normally can't make a kind of product which is simply competitive, and put on a market, you know, to challenge somebody else's bread. And even the monks at Genesee, the bread that they make, I think, is pretty special bread, isn't it? It's probably the kind that sells for $100 a loaf. I'm not sure. But it's always monk's bread, you know. It's always a little special. It's hard to go by St. Benedict's principle and sell your products a little cheaper than other people do. Hardly anybody. None of the monasteries do this. And it's almost always distinguished because it's a product of monks, and therefore it's good. The monks become kind of pets of the people, at least a certain degree. They make baskets, you know, part of the economy. Yeah. It's more or less a... I mean, it's more... from a spiritual point of view. Someone might say that's just a thing, that's just another... devolution. I mean, you might not say that, but I'm saying that's what someone might say. I don't think it can be a bad thing.


There's a danger of thinking those things are all static. That's right. There's an element, though, that two-thirds of the people in the world don't have anything to eat when they go to bed, and they don't eat fruitcakes when they've came to bed. Maybe that element is more emphasized now because of the consciousness of the third world, which is ever-present. It is something to consider. Sure. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Oh, you mean when they sell a straight agricultural product without making something out of it? Because when they make a product, it's usually a pretty epicure product, a pretty special delicatessen product, like get so many cheeses and things in there, which are ways to make it special. Yeah, the special... What kind of honey is it? There's a thousand different types.


Yeah, they're pedigreed bees. Different fruit flavors. So, there's something weird there, and I don't know the answer to it. You have crafts that are different than food, because the shakers, the furniture, really edifies people. Yes. Or, if you have icons, this lifts the person's spirit, whereas a fruitcake wouldn't do that. No, not much. Depends on how much brandy you put in. Depends on how long they hold it in that tray. Like some of them, we get it, but I read British. You know, another thing you're putting down, just like in the reading last night, Paul said, whatever you do with doubt, you don't do it as an act of faith, or as a sin. I mean, to make a fruitcake, there's a lot of doubt involved in it. In our consciences, there is a mind. In terms of the witness, too, people, say, impoverished person,


sees what the monks are producing, if they're producing a brandy-soaked fruitcake, they might tend to look askance at the monastic, the value of this monastic life, and who are these guys, and what are they producing? Whereas, in the Tibetan tradition, one thing I became conscious of, they're just like any established religion. If they're established, they accumulate wealth. And there, there's a whole idea about the peasantry who do their work for them. It's kind of like a whole nation of laborers working for the monks, who don't do anything for them. There was this element of actually accumulating spiritual merit by doing work for the monks. Yes, we had that in the Middle Ages, I think. Well, also, the common people would support the monks, even though they had little themselves, they'd give to keep the monks going, because they felt that they were doing something for them, that they were an important part of the Church. But that doesn't need to be justified anymore. There's a new consciousness which doesn't even allow that. And it's as if almost the Western Middle Ages


is somehow continuous with the Tibetan scheme. We can really have almost a monastic society, monasticism, redominance. That's the way it was around Penelope in the Middle Ages, where it was kind of a barony. There was a feudal capitalism, all kinds of positions in the circle, landowners and so on. And one could say that an icon was as superfluous as a fruitcake, but a person who was spiritually minded or considers this to be a spiritual object would be more inclined to sacrifice to buy an icon than to get a fruitcake or something. It's just that certain things have a connotation, and they may be there. Spiritually, realistically, there is no great difference between the two. There is going to be a difference in the public mind, particularly the devout public mind. What is spirit? There's an ambiguity with the word spirit,


which has always been kind of a buzzword. It is a question we've never had an answer for. You start making something like bread and you run into all kinds of problems. You just make a common and competitive product. What you're likely to do is turn the monastery into a factory. The alternative, one alternative, of course, is to make more luxury products like the fruitcake and then you can sort of control your thing. They're not easy questions. There's sort of no one door you can go out of providing a high voice for enthusiasm in these questions. It's usually a kind of confidence, especially when you have a sizable community and you think of them as just one or two people who can be very committed and do a very nice job. I'm used to these nasty ways of self-support. Of course, it came from a culture here.


We didn't have mass production. It's impossible to compete. They sell it less than the other markets. They didn't have to compete with factories. You're making the same thing where you can't compete. There you had a local culture, probably, or a local economy where the monastery complemented other factors but everything was done within a small circle, probably. The means of productivity were basically the same. Yeah, it was largely agricultural, probably. The things that they sold were largely grown on the land. They didn't actually support themselves. Yes. It seems to me that the selling of the products was not their normal, their chief means of support in those days. You see, usually they grew their food, I think, especially the bigger monasteries, and then they sold some products. So, therefore, they could sell them at a lower price because it was almost superfluity for them at sale. Like St. Benedict is talking about the products of the craftsmen at that point, I believe, when he says sell them cheaper. Now, he's not talking about the basic means of support of a monastery


but something which is a little accessory, a little bit of an extra. And that's important. It's another thing when you're talking about the means of support because you can't afford it that way normally, and you really would. It would change your schedule if you tried to be supportive, too. I mean, self-supporting, like when you grow your own food, it takes so much care. For sure. If you make 100% self-support your number one principle, you're going to revolutionize the character of the land completely, that everybody had to work, you know, every day or something like that. Or at least a lot more than you do. So there's a choice you have to make there. Oh, my goodness. I don't know how we got so far overtime anyway. Let's go on. Okay, I'd like to spend a little time on that question of spiritual poverty


in the middle of 74 and Roberts next time. And aside from that, we can move on pretty quickly through that section. Would you say something about voluntary poverty? I remember it was stressed in that last of these more book you read. Someone said anyone who takes this path will have no cause for complaint. Something like that. But yet it seems important to be voluntary because there are people who have been poor who have worked their way out of it, like University of Rhode Island, who has a kind of fear of poverty and of being hungry. A lot of people that have been poor when they were young, they've still got sort of a specter of poverty hanging over them. A real fear of it. So voluntary poverty means that you've arrived at the point where you're free to choose poverty, okay? So that means that you've been able to deal with a fear like that, a problem like that, if you do have it in you. It implies that. And that's necessary. Otherwise, you can't really be voluntary. And the poverty won't do you much good. No, it won't do you much good.


Because if the end of poverty is freedom, and poverty has to be, in a sense, an expression at least of the beginning of freedom, the movement towards freedom, there isn't that seed of freedom there right now. And you may have to use some other means in order to get over that fear. No, that's true. So it's not to be... That's the thing that can't be pushed on people. So voluntary poverty can't be imposed. Because, for one thing, it can't be imposed on people like that. Until they reach the point where they're... [...] Thank you for watching this video. If you like this video, please subscribe to my channel.